Earlier this week Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) marketing boss Chris Capossela announced the company’s plans to turn its iconic Internet Explorer web browser into a thing of the past.
When millennials speak, we reserve the words ‘Internet Explorer’ for the butt of our jokes. It’s old, it’s slow, and it’s full of bugs. The only people we know who use Internet Explorer are our grandparents.
Microsoft knows how unpopular Internet Explorer is. That’s why the company has been working hard on a new browser it calls “Project Spartan”. Project Spartan will be designed to go head to head to with the premier browsers on the web, most notably, Google Chrome.
The graph above from dadaviz shows how Internet Explorer reached its crumbling state from a position of dominance 5 years ago. IE went from being the browser of the majority to just 20.75% prevalence on desktop with slipping market share. This chart doesn’t even take into account the fact that Microsoft’s web navigator has virtually no presence on mobile, where Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s Android browsers reign. Can you name one person who owns a Windows phone?
Microsoft is going through a transformation. It’s no longer the computing superpower that it was in the 90s. Microsoft doesn’t even control the desktop experience anymore. Google has wrestled web navigation away from them. Google’s tightening grip on desktop web surfing means more Google searches. More Google searches means more paid search ads which go straight to their bottom line, not Microsofts.
Google and Apple have been capturing huge profits simply by keeping a massive scale of users within their ecosystems. In addition to selling ads this also lets them promote their other highly profitable services, including iTunes and the Google Play store. Project Spartan is Microsoft’s attempt to fight back in the battle to control web navigation.
Microsoft’s earnings have slipped 4 quarters in a row. The company could benefit in an enormous way if its able to rebuild its base of web browsers and funnel that traffic into high margin businesses. Who knows what will happen next if Project Spartan is a home run? Microsoft might even get us to start using Bing.